Our Bodies, Ourselves Summary


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Born of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s, Our Bodies, Ourselves was written from a feminist and leftist political perspective by women who believed that all women need full and accurate information about childbirth, abortion, birth control, sexuality, and other topics, in order to make informed decisions and lead full, healthy lives. The authors collected and evaluated comprehensive medical information, which they translated into nontechnical language; they also included many anecdotal experiences. The book has been used as a text in hundreds of high school and college courses. It has been revised many times, sold millions of copies, and been widely translated.

Since the revised 1976 edition was selected as one of the “Best of the Best” books for young adults by the American Library Association, Our Bodies, Ourselves has been the target of frequent, highly orchestrated attacks by conservative organizations, such as the Eagle Forum, Education Research Analysts, and the Moral Majority. These critics have claimed that the book is immoral, anti-Christian, and antifamily—charges which the BWHBC denies. By 1977 censors had used the book’s explicit discussion of sexuality to attempt to have it banned from dozens of small-town libraries and schools in the Midwest, the South, and New England. Attempts at censorship increased dramatically during the Reagan Administration. Some librarians were pressured to remove the book, which was also deleted from order lists and stolen from libraries. In spite of such attempts, however, Our Bodies, Ourselves has continued to prove a popular guide to issues affecting the health and sexuality of women.


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

Frustrated by the lack of available information on women’s medical concerns, a group of eleven women organized themselves into a study group in 1969 and began to research and teach others about women’s health issues. Known as the Boston Women’s Health Collective, this group published its findings commercially in 1973 as Our Bodies, Ourselves. The first edition of the book covered a wide array of topics, from body image, sexuality, and birth control to the menopause and the aging process. The authors emphasized the importance of self-education, preventive health care, and reform of the American health care system to provide better service to women. The collective issued updated editions of the book in 1984 and 1992, entitled The New Our Bodies, Ourselves. These revised editions addressed contemporary concerns, such as defective breast implants and women’s risk for becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The collective eventually sponsored a series of national conferences on women’s health to further these goals.